Friday 15 November 2019

Amateur status is sacred, insists Dublin's Fenton

BLUE BLOOD: Brian Fenton at the launch of the new Dublin GAA jersey yesterday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
BLUE BLOOD: Brian Fenton at the launch of the new Dublin GAA jersey yesterday. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Around this time last year Brian Fenton made comments that seemed to suggest he was seeking pay-for-play.

"Young players could be paid a fee per game to encourage them to stay at home instead of heading off to the States during the summer," he said 12 months ago in Belfast.

"When a county is knocked out of the championship early many players head off but, if they were to get a fee for playing on at home, it would, I believe, encourage many to remain. The GAA is not short of money."

He knows how it sounds but an erosion of the GAA's amateur status was, he insists, never what he was seeking.

Instead, he was looking at ways where counties could ensure their best players stayed at home and make it at least as attractive to stay in Ireland rather than head Stateside.

"I'm glad I get the chance to explain it," he said at the launch of Dublin's new jersey for the 2019 season.

"The quotes were correct at the time and you have to stand by what you said as well but my angle was... it wasn't like this (a round-table interview), it was very informal.

"I was chatting to a guy when I visited St Paul's in Belfast, a great club, but my angle was that county teams were being weakened because players were leaving the panel in April-May.

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"They get a few bob, flights, accommodation, everything looked after and coming back with a few pound in the pocket to pay college fees.

"The incentive for him was to go to the States. I'm thinking of one player in particular, a friend of mine from UCD, and the incentive for him was to go the US to earn cash rather than stay in Ireland.

"That was my angle, I was in no way promoting professional sport or pay for play - just to explain that."

That end-of-league talent drain is an issue for many counties.

"Dublin don't have a problem keeping their front-line players at home given the high probability of success but Fenton insists he'd play for Dublin even if they weren't winning.

"I can see the draw of the States, absolutely, for any young guy who is going to be flown over and looked after, play a few games and told to live it up, the attractiveness of that.

"But, for me, I was brought up in a family of GAA people, and for me it's just the pleasure and pride of putting on the Dublin jersey. Yes, success is great but I'd still play if I was not winning. Absolutely.

"It's all I know. It's my club. I can't speak on behalf of those other players, but for me, if we weren't as successful, I'd still be playing, 100pc. To turn out in Croke Park is an absolute dream."

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